Teen librarian Kayla Chase spends time with Cera at the Auburn Public Library on Wednesday. Teenagers are unable to use the Teen Space because of COVID-19 precautions, so library staff stop in often to give attention to Cera. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Sometimes you want a book.

Sometimes you want a cat.

The Auburn Public Library now offers both.

Since summer, the library’s teen room has been home to a series of cats from the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in Lewiston. They stay, hang out, get fawned over by cat-loving staff members and patrons. Then they get adopted.

“Customers can come in with a 30-minute browsing pass. That gets them in the library for 30 minutes, whether they want to look at books, read the newspaper, visit with the cat. We’ve had people come in specifically to visit the cat,” Donna Wallace, the library’s adult services manager, said.

Library staff approached the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society about getting a feline boarder last spring. Employees had returned from their COVID-19 shutdown, but the library was still closed to patrons. A temporary resident cat felt like a good morale booster.

The two organizations had worked together before — the library helped with shelter donations, the shelter visited the library with animals up for adoption — but this would be a new situation for everyone.

Cera spends her days in the Teen Space at the Auburn Public Library. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We’ve had cats out in places that are a little more pet related. You know, Petco, that makes total sense we would have a cat there … places you wouldn’t be surprised to walk in and find a cat from Androscoggin (Humane Society),” said shelter Director Katie Lisnik. “This one was a little more different.”

In July, shortly after the Auburn library reopened to patrons, the humane society brought over its first library cat, Minou, an elderly tortoiseshell mix chosen because she was sweet, low key and probably wouldn’t try to escape.

She also turned out to be very vocal as she sat in her enclosed cat condo by the reference desk.

“She was older, but she had a lot of energy,” Wallace said. “She wanted attention.”

The library moved Minou to the teen lounge, where she could roam and where patrons could drop by to spend time with her. She was adopted about a month later.

Since then, the library has hosted six other cats, including a bonded pair. One cat already had a family interested in her and the bonded pair had to leave early — one of them developed the sniffles, Lisnik said — but three cats have found their new homes while living at the library. One was adopted in less than a week.

The current resident is Cera, a sweet but sometimes feisty 2-year-old chosen because she would do well interacting with people and because, as a black-and-white cat, she just couldn’t stand out at the shelter.

“We tend to have a lot of black-and-white cats,” Lisnik said.

The program has worked so well that it’s gotten shelter staff thinking about other nontraditional places they might showcase their cats.

“It’s wonderful we’re able to place cats through the library, but on top of that, too, it’s a really wonderful way for us to spread the word about our organization,” Lisnik said. “Even if people coming to the library aren’t interested in adopting … they’re seeing the cat and realizing, ‘Oh, there’s a kitty who needs a home, I never really thought about that. Oh, there’s a shelter in our community. Oh, it’s up the street from me and I didn’t even know it was there.'”

It’s worked out for the library, too.

“I’ve noticed employees taking their breaks and coming up and spending five or 10 minutes with the cat,” Wallace said. “It’s been a good morale boost in a somewhat difficult time.”

Animal Tales is a recurring Sun Journal feature about animals and their people. Have an idea for Animal Tales? Call Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or email her at [email protected].

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